Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Davis County Clipper: Party lines - Property tax changes, more harm than good?

Property tax changes, more harm than good?
By Rob Miller, Utah Democratic Vice Chair

Death and taxes are two things that we can count on. We may well ask are the new assessments and taxes in Davis County helpful or harmful? Taxpayers basically fall into four groups: 1. Older citizens on fixed incomes. 2. Middle aged citizens still very much in the work place. 3. Young property owners just starting out. 4. Commercial/Industrial and business property.

All taxpayers have the following common denominators: 1. Is my property worth what the assessor says it is? 2. Is the rate my property being taxed at justified by the government service I’m receiving? 3. As Davis County government currently exists, is a one-party system sensitive to public well being regarding taxation?

The answer to question 1 is no. Last year my property tax assessment claimed that my home was worth $378,000, while the lender who refinanced my home had it assessed for $269,000. Your property and my property is not worth what the assessor says it is and this is brought out by verifiable sales comparison data, also the fact that protested evaluations have received a reduction of sorts across the board.

The rate at which properties are taxed is set by the County Commissioners. With the current change in evaluation one might ask is county government providing additional services or a higher level of services that are currently in place? The answer to that question is also no. Ninety percent of Davis County now exists within the boundaries of corporate cities. As the county shrinks and cities expand one could make the conclusion that county services are being picked up by the cities. This should mandate a reduction rather than an increase in county taxes. This particular condition creates unnecessary and costly duplication in certain areas. For all the rhetoric we have heard about efforts to determine our property values there isn’t much being said about consolidating city/county services to eliminate overlap and duplication. A critical look should be taken regarding cost vs. benefit in many areas of county government.

Do we believe that, as Davis County residents, we should be happy to pay a certain percentage of what our properties are worth, justified only by higher costs in surrounding counties? Last year taxes in substantial areas of the county nearly doubled. When a public outcry ensued the county’s response was, “We’ve made a mistake so here’s your rebate.” This year many of your statements show another increase above last year’s and a whopping increase above the slight rebate received. What kind of trickery is this?

Our third and final issue is the crux of the entire dilemma. One-party rule in Davis County has not served us well. Our founding fathers realized the need for checks and balances. In Davis County we have not had checks and balances since 1994. Over the past 13 years Davis County officials have thrust egregious tax increases upon the public. The dereliction and outright incompetence promoted by one-party government clearly exemplified by the mishandling of property values has driven four commissioners from office, and still one-party rule persists.

Please join with me in the voting booth this November to bring responsibility and balance back to county government. Davis County voters have the power to make the needed change.

Property tax changes, more harm than good?
By Wade Farraway, Davis County Rep.Vice Chair

I can see why Todd Weiler asked me to fill in while he conveniently left on his vacation; this week’s question is a tough one. Anytime the way property taxes are assessed is changed there will be winners and losers. In this latest change no one in Davis County Government is to blame, in that it came about because of HB 54 Property Tax Assessment Revisions sponsored by representative Wayne Harper. HB 54 in a nutshell requires that counties of the first and second class use a computer assisted mass appraisal system to conduct their annual update of property values. The bill’s aim was to provide for a “uniform and equal treatment of parcels of real property throughout the county” every year.

HB 54 was hotly contested and had three substitutes before the final product passed the Utah Senate and House without a nay vote in its final form. This bi-partisan bill, when it passed and was signed into law by the Governor, became the obligation of the counties in its implementation.

This being the first year that the new tax assessment tool is in use, it is difficult to determine whether or not it helps or hurts the county. The goal was of course to bring fairness and equality into the property tax system by treating like properties the same. The problem here is that identical twins are rare and so are identical properties.

There are more than 90,000 parcels of real estate located in Davis County with an approximate worth of $8 billion that need to be evaluated annually. This Herculean task currently falls upon the County Assessor James B. Ivie who must somehow evaluate and assess a value to every parcel every year in a fair and equal way. This is not an easy task. Currently, these property taxes go to the Davis School District, State Basic School levy, Davis County, Davis jail bond, County library, water companies, sewer districts and Mosquito abatement to name a few. Obviously these are important entities that need public monies to function.

When it comes to taxes the Republican Party position in the Utah State Republican Platform is: We accept the necessity for limited taxation in order for government to perform and administer those services which meet essential public needs. However, we recognize that the power to tax is also the power to control, and believe that the best way to control government is to strictly control the amount of taxes imposed on the people.

We encourage further simplification of tax systems, the elimination of the estate tax, and broad-based rate reduction where possible.

The Davis County Commission – all Republicans – reduced the tax rate this past year as a good example of proper tax stewardship. Whereas we all know that the Democrats have not met a tax they haven’t liked.


Jeremy said...

"1. Is my property worth what the assessor says it is?"

Your case is an anomaly. A quick call to the Assessor's Office would have straightened everything out. I know you have rhetorical points to make but for you to publish your unique case as the norm in order to score political points grossly distorts an important issue.

If someone's assessment seems high (and it isn't an atypical computer glitch as Rob's valuation appears to be) the current system provides a very simple means for one to correct the situation. Attached to every assessment notice was a form called, "Davis County Board of Equalization Request for Review of Market Value for Year 2008". Fill the simple form out and send it to the county. A state licensed/certified appraiser will evaluate market data and correct the assessment if the computer assisted mass appraisal system doesn't reflect a realistic market value for the property.

Analysis of sales in each area of Davis County for tax year 2008 shows that the assessor's office is within 10% of market value on most parcels countywide. There are outliers and values on some parcels that are incorrect but the appeal process is simple and fair for taxpayers.

Flaming rhetoric about tax assessment may seem benefit Democrats politically but it doesn't benefit taxpayers and residents. There are real problems that a constructive dialog could fix. I know that constructive dialog isn't typically the point of the forum you wrote this piece for but accuracy is still important.

Jeremy said...

"2. Is the rate my property being taxed at justified by the government service I’m receiving?"

Look at your assessment notice more closely. The county's portion of your tax bill is only about 20 to 25% of the total tax amount. The vast majority of your property tax bill is going to our public education system. I always thought Democrats were in favor of adequate funding for education. If you feel the service you're receiving from our schools doesn't justify the amount you are taxed maybe you should switch parties.

Jeremy said...

"3. As Davis County government currently exists, is a one-party system sensitive to public well being regarding taxation?"

You know I agree with this argument. I've given you a hard time about your first two points so I'd be remiss if I didn't hand out kudos for this one. I'd argue that this is the number one political problem Davis County residents face. While this years assessments can be shown to have been handled in as fair and professional manner as possible there is no denying that tax policy in our county is subject to the problems inherent in a single party political system. Cronyism and even corruption thrive in an environment such as that Davis County residents have created through their voting patterns.

A strong local Democratic Party would provide many benefits of good government to our county's residents.

David V. said...

"Your case is an anomaly"

Really? When I sold my house in Bountiful last year it went for $300,000.00. My assessment was over $519,000.00.

Jeremy, Why isn't there an evaluation of the Republican article? Do you agree with Farraway's statement, "the Democrats have not met a tax they haven't liked."?

I feel the same way as Miller and I agree with his position. Your flaming rhetoric is so very obvious but maybe your defense of your boss Ivie got you the Scooby Snack and the atta-boy that you needed to feel oh so warm and bubbly.

Rob said...

I love Scooby Snacks!

Jeremy, I wrote this based on my best understanding and experience, and the experience of other Davis County residents.

To suggest that I don't want adequate education funding because I want lower property taxes is pretty silly.

Call my opinion what you will but I stand by my position.


Jeremy said...

David V., scooby snacks today. Maybe tomorrow after I fix Rob's market value. That will make me feel all "warm and bubbly".

If you sold your house for only $300,000 and it was assessed at $519,000 you either got robbed or the lucky duck who bought your house should appeal their 2008 assessment! Either way your case isn't typical of this year's assessments.


Misinformation about Utah's property tax system makes my job and the jobs of other county employees unnecessarily difficult. I understand your reasoning in this article I'm just disappointed that the piece spreads a negative impression of my boss and co-workers that isn't based on an accurate description of the real situation in our county.

Monty said...

My tax valuation seemed to have doubled also from $400,000 to $800,000 I think its the Republicans dirty tricks...

Marshall said...

Republicans never meet a bill they weren't willing to pass onto the next generation...